As much as we love high-priced tech like graphics cards, monitors, or the latest handheld PC, most of us can’t drop several hundred dollars on a tech purchase on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean you can’t greatly improve your tech life (or the lives of your tech-focused friends and family) while spending a comparatively small amount of money.
I own most of the affordable tech gifts in this list below, all of which are on sale for Black Friday. And I can honestly say that they have made (or would make) my nerdy world a little nicer in their own ways. If you’re looking for an affordable gift for that techie friend or family member (or just something to get yourself) this deal season, one of these under-$50 options might be just what you’re after.
If you want to give your existing desk that gaming look with some app- or Alexa-controlled RGB lighting, Govee’s RGBIC neon desk rope light is great. Its diffused lighting looks great. It can be cut in 12 places to best fit your desk, is designed to bend nicely around corners, and has a strong, sticky backing that has held it on my workbench without issue for just about a year for the past several months.
I ran these lights around the back of my bench rather than the front to give some colorful backlighting to my product photography. And thanks to Alexa integration, I can change the colors on the fly while I’m taking photos. It also provides some nice mood light to my office when I’m not working, and the app lets you choose from attractive and dynamic presets, or create your own custom light show.
For those of us of a certain age, few things beat a chunky tactile volume knob and physical buttons for controlling media, and Vaydeer’s USB device provides that and then some. I own the previous version of this device and love it for controlling and muting music at my treadmill desk while I work.
But this updated model does one better by providing a mic mute button and indicator light so you know at a glance if your mic is on or not. I’ve only used the device in Windows, but the product description says it’s compatible with macOS as well.
HyperX Wrist Rest
For anyone who spends their days (and / or nights) in front of a keyboard, a good wrist rest is key for both short-term comfort and long-term limb health. Multiple Tom’s Hardware staffers swear by HyperX’s gel / memory foam wrist rests. And with the rise in popularity of compact keyboards, it’s nice to see the company now offers a Mini version. At about 9 inches long, it’s a good fit for small keyboards, but a 14-inch Tenkeyless optionl is also available for just a couple dollars extra.
Hamurubi Large Felt Desk Pad
Few things can freshen up your desk space with less effort and cost than a good desk pad. It also helps that putting down a new desk pad means you actually have to clean up your desk. The one I’m using at my main home desk is getting a little funky, so I ordered this felt model from Hamurubi when I saw it was on sale for under $12.
It comes in two rather large sizes, and I chose the larger 35.5-inch model to cover most of my work area. I particularly like that it’s felt rather than leather, and that it has thousands of anti-slip silicone dots on the bottom to keep it in place. At $10-$12 and available in three shades of gray, if you like the look and feel of felt, it should be a comfy and attractive addition to your desk.
HOTO NEX O1 PRO 3.6V Screwdriver Set
I build a lot of PCs and also do a fair bit of home improvement work around my apartment, so a cordless screwdriver is a nice thing to have. I also own a much slimmer wowstick, but have found HOTO’s NEX O1 Pro to be handier thanks to its extra (and variable) torque. It’s great for loosening those factory-installed screws on PC cases that just don’t want to let go, and also good for assembling small pieces of furniture.
The HOTO won’t replace my DeWalt impact driver or drill for bigger, tougher jobs, but for everyday tasks, it’s powerful enough, easy to charge over USB-C, and even looks good on my workbench. I just wish it came with and stored more than 12 bits.
Cooler Master ARGB GPU Support Bracket
There are lots of ways of dealing with a sagging GPU. You could just ignore it (so long as you aren’t transporting your PC somewhere), get a sub-$10 adjustable piston-type GPU brace, or hold your heavy graphics card up in style with Cooler Master’s tempered glass and RGB universal GPU Bracket.
With a magnetic base and clip-on metal support clip, this graphics card holder was simple to install. It’s currently holding up the ancient GTX 1080 Ti in our external storage testbed, and by far the most difficult installation step was plugging in the three-in RGB header onto the motherboard while the system was standing on my workbench. Is this a lot of features to throw into what’s basically a support brace? Sure. But if you spent hundreds making your system look great, $29 is a small price to pay for some pretty GPU support.
Anker Magnetic Cable Holder (2-pack)
Along with a nice pad, few things make a desk look neater than some smart cable management. And I don’t mean behind the desk. Anker’s Anker Magnetic Cable Holder lets you keep up to five slim USB and power cables (technically 10, since this is a two-pack) out of the way but within reach on your desk by way of a sticky magnetic pad and some removable magnetic collars.
Wrap the collars around your cables and whatever data or power cables you need for your peripherals can hang out neatly at the back of your desk until you need them. I have a set of these, and while they are a bit fiddly to get set up, I would say the biggest design flaw is my inconsistent ability to actually use them (But they do work quite well when I do!).
Lionwei USB C to Dual DisplayPort 4K Docking Station Adapter
There aren’t a whole lot of affordable products that walk the line between cheap USB-C hub and full on-ultra-expensive laptop dock. But I’ve found Loinwei’s USB-C DisplayPort Docking Station Adapter fits my needs quite well. Its 10Gbs connection is fast enough so that I can plug my 4K monitor, Ethernet, and peripherals into my Windows laptop at the office with a single cable. And with its USB-C PD charging (up to 100W, charger not included) my laptop gets all the power and connectivity it needs through a single cable. I have an Anker dock at home that basically does the same thing, but it cost me three times as much as this hub.
TP-Link AX1800 WiFi 6 USB Adapter
Have you upgraded your router to Wi-Fi 6, but your desktop or laptop doesn’t have the requisite hardware to take advantage of your newer network tech? TP-Link’s AX1800 WiFi 6 USB Adapter is here to solve that problem for you. It’s quite large by USB Wi-Fi dongle standards, but I’ve found it works quite well with the Wi-Fi 6 router I have running downstairs from my office. And it instantly fixed an issue I was having with very poor reception from the SFF PC I built in the Fractal Terra case.
Anker Prime 67W GaN Charger
If there’s one all of us with modern tech could probably use at this point, it’s an extra high-speed and compact charger. And Anker’s Prime 67W GaN charger is one of the smallest out there that can output up to 64.5W over one of its USB-C ports. It also has a second USB-C port and a USB-A port, while being about the size of most smartphone chargers.
That means you can charge most mainstream laptops and a couple of other devices on the go with a device you’ll barely notice in your bag. All that, plus Anker’s excellent reputation for build quality and customer service, is quite a bit to pack into a tiny, sub-$40 charger. But that’s what you get here, for however long this Black Friday deal lasts.
8Bitdo SN30 Pro Wireless Bluetooth Controller
What’s not to love about a $37 SNES-inspired wireless gaming controller that’s compatible with Windows, Mac, Android and the Nintendo Switch? Not much, but I own the original Pro model and not one of these newer models with translucent plastic shells. That’s peak late-90s nostalgia and I really don’t want to love it as much as I do.
As you might expect given this controller’s small size and many more buttons than the SNES controller it was based on, its Rumble motors aren’t the strongest, and the layout can feel kind of cramped for some modern games. But for any kind of retro game and especially platformers (I’m looking at you, Super Mario Bros. Wonder), this is my go-to controller. At this price, maybe I should pick up another one.
APC Desk Mount Power Station PE6U4
If you’re a tech person, you always want more power sockets and USB ports within easy reach. And that’s exactly what APC’s Desk Mount Power Station provides. Designed to be clamped on the edge of a desk or on top of a cubicle wall, it puts six power sockets and four USB charging ports right on your desk. No more bending over or reaching around things to get the sweet, sweet power your device needs.
Oh, and it’s also a 1,080-Joule-rated surge protector, so your devices get some added protection as well. I wouldn’t trust all my expensive devices to such a small surge protector but hey, it’s better than nothing.
Anker Power Strip Surge Protector (2100J)
What’s exciting to say about a surge protector? If it’s old and defective, it could help burn your house down. And even if it isn’t, it’s recommended you replace them every 5 or so years because the parts that actually do the protecting can become less effective over the years. So there’s a good chance you’re due for a new one. I own three of these Anker Power Strip Surge Protectors (2100J) and they all have worked flawlessly.
Aside from the usual things like 10 three-prong outlets and a handy switch, Anker also includes USB-A and USB-C power outlets, each rated to 12W. I wish these came with more than an 18-month warranty, but I’ve always had good luck with Anker’s customer service, which makes me feel a bit better on that front.
Orico USB 3.0 Clamp Hub
Much like the APC power station above, this is a four-port USB hub that’s designed to clamp onto your desk and give you extra convenient connectivity. Orico’s device is more about data than power though, delivering USB 3.0 speeds, which is good enough for most modern devices. It comes in black or silver and has a nice sturdy metal frame. Just note that its clamp section is pretty shallow and its adjustable screw can only open between 10 and 32 mm, so it won’t fit on all desks.
Anker PowerConf C200 Webcam
I played with more than a few webcams throughout the pandemic, including a couple with higher-resolution 4K sensors. But once I started using Anker’s PowerConf C200, I stopped using anything else. In fact, I have two of these cameras. One at my treadmill desk and one at the desk in my living room. Apart from occasional auto-focus issues (a pretty common issue with webcams, especially if you move around), I’ve loved these cameras for their image quality, small size, and software that I actually (occasionally) want to use.
The PowerConf C200 delivers a clear image that looks better in all lighting settings than most 1080p webcams (it technically sports 2K resolution but most meeting programs are going to top out at 1080p), a physical shutter, and a pretty decent dual mic setup. I still prefer a headset mic, but at times Google Meet defaults to the camera’s mic and no one has complained. You can spend more for a good webcam, but if you’re only using your camera for work meetings and chatting with family and friends, you don’t need anything better than this.